Idaho lawmakers leave truck registration fees alone with no weight-mile tax

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 11/14/2017

Truck registration fees in Idaho will remain as they are, the Idaho Legislature Commercial Vehicle Annual Registration Fee Committee concluded on Nov. 9. The interim committee was tasked to explore options after a 2010 report suggested truckers are not paying their fair share relative to trucks’ impact on roads.

In 2010, Gov. Butch Otter signed off on a task force report on transportation funding. The report found that passenger vehicles are paying 8 percent more than their cost responsibility of state highway user fees. Conversely, combination trucks operating in Idaho are underpaying by 14 percent. The report estimated $262 million a year was needed to maintain the roadways and an additional $281 million would be required for safety and capacity projects.

House Bill 312 in 2015 increased registration fees and fuel taxes while adding a fee for electric and hybrid vehicles. Those taxes and fees have generated $105.5 million, approximately 10 percent of highway user revenue. Accounting for all highway user revenue, commercial vehicles contributed $149 million in fiscal year 2017, or 31 percent.

Idaho used to have commercial vehicle fees paid quarterly based on a weight-distance tax. However, that tax was eliminated in 2000 after trucking companies filed a lawsuit accusing the tax to be inequitable. In 2001, the current five-tier mileage based registration fee schedule was established.

HB 312 required the Legislature to look into imposing “on all commercial vehicles, irrespective of body type, and on all farm vehicles having a maximum gross weight in excess of 60,000 pounds, an annual registration fee and in addition thereto, an operating fee by weight class based on the total miles the owner operated such vehicle on roads and highways in the state, county, city and highway district systems in Idaho during each quarter of the calendar year.” The additional operation fee, or weight-distance tax, would be implemented by Jan. 1, 2019.

On Thursday, Nov. 9, the interim committee held its fourth meeting regarding the issue of truck registration fees. During a presentation, a senior legislative research analyst attempted to explain to the lawmakers how truck registration fees are calculated in Idaho, including IRP and IFTA. It was clear that neither the analyst nor the lawmakers had a clear understanding of the complicated system.

Much like a math quiz, examples were given to help guide lawmakers through the process. Despite the simplistic approach, lawmakers still had several questions and appeared confused or overwhelmed at times.

After receiving a registration fee course, the committee was presented with commercial truck fee revenue options from D’Artagnan Consulting LLP, Austin, Texas. In their presentation, the consultants noted that neither registration fees nor fuel taxes reflect usage or impact of higher vehicle weights. D’Artagnan suggested using use-based fees such as the weight-mile tax in Oregon.

Towards the end of the meeting, Chairman Rep. Joe Palmer acknowledged the needs for something simpler but without a huge cost to administer. Sen. Carl Crabtree also found a need for some kind of reform.

“I think our current system would need to be evaluated based on its fairness and equitability, and how we’re going to define that would probably have to do with per mile versus road damage,” Crabtree said. “I’m not sure our current system reflects that as well as it could.”

D’Artagnan consultants assured lawmakers that such a plan was doable.

Rep. Jason Monks suggested that perhaps it would be more feasible to simply tweak the current system rather than a complete overhaul. Lawmakers agreed that all presentations would be under advisement for future reference.

Despite acknowledging the complexity of the current system and assurances from consultants that a use-based fee could be implemented, lawmakers decided to proceed with business as usual. Lawmakers agreed that all presentations would be under advisement for future reference.



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